Brief History of Banning Mill
Text and research by GRAs Arden Williams and Teresa Beyer
Banning mill originated in 1842 when four brothers, the Bowens, obtained the property in a land lottery following the Creek Indians cessation. In 1851, the Bowens were forced to give up the mill after a costly equipment fire put them out of business. In 1885, William Amis of nearby Coweta County purchased and rebuilt the damaged mill. While Amis made improvements to the mill, built a home, and constructed a local church, the business and village really expanded under the ownership of Arthur Hutcheson. In 1878 Hutcheson purchased and modernized Banning. Under his direction (and financial backing from a northern investor) he built additional mills along Snake Creek, purchased new equipment for the cotton mill, constructed homes for his employees to live in, and hired a community doctor and teacher. When Hutcheson died on April 5th, 1895, his family hired a variety of directors, managers, and superintendents to oversee the 240 mill hands then employed at Banning.
Unlike mills located in or near city centers, Banning remained small. Possibly saving it from attack during the Civil War, its rural location often acted as a deterrent to possible workers and investors during its later years. Banning’s work force came and went as jobs became available. Always transient, mill hands were constantly searching for hire wages and better housing for their families. At the turn of the century three new mills were constructed in the local city centers (Carrollton, Newnan, and Sargent) near Banning. Close to railroads and popular amusements, these mills drew employees from rural farms and businesses. Operations at Banning seemed to falter.
In 1921, Poncet Davis purchased the mill and began manufacturing bicycle handlebars, grips, and pedals. Banning seemed to thrive until the onset of the Great Depression. The mill closed in 1929 and left approximately 173 employees without work. When it opened again in 1930, it only employed sixty-seven hands. The mill shut down three times between 1932 and 1941. During these years, mill villagers often continued to live in company housing with no work or management.
The next two decades brought a variety of owners, but little in the way of prosperity. By the late 1960s Banning was making yarn for household mops, employing only a handful of men and women on antiquated machinery. The mills final closure came in 1970.
Despite hardship and constantly changing ownership, a strong community of neighbors and extended kin continued to develop the “like a family” mentality so often present in mill villages throughout the South. Even today, thirty years after the mills final closure, many of Banning’s local inhabitants (some of them fourth generation mill workers) still identify themselves with the rural cotton mill along Snake Creek. Their close-knit family ties and fond memories make up the legacy known as Banning Mill.